Rassegna Stampa Elezioni Israeliane 2009

Monitoraggio attraverso i media internazionali delle elezioni in Israele del Febbraio 2009

The governmental demon

Posted by claudiacampli su 28 febbraio, 2009


By Elia Leibowitz

Out of the melodrama of Israeli public discourse, two popular demons often emerge: the ethnic demon and the demographic demon. Last week, a third popular demon awoke from its brief hibernation: the governmental demon. Those who roused it from its sleep were the heads of Israel’s four largest parties, who found one issue on which they agree completely. In their view, the root of all the state’s problems is this demon – in other words, the electoral system and the system of government.

The chamber quartet of those who were and/or wish to be prime minister has been telling the Israeli public – each in his own voice, soprano, tenor, baritone and bass – that the reason we have hit rock bottom is that the government, and particularly the individual who heads it, lacks sufficient power. If only we altered our electoral system and gave more authority and power to the government and the prime minister, our situation would improve beyond recognition. If only we removed the shackles from the moral and intellectual giant who leads us – those petty laws that keep him under the supervision of 61 Lilliputian members of Knesset, who are elected by even tinier dwarfs – then the prime minister would arise like a lion and save Israel. It is as if all four were joining hands to storm the Knesset, after having already sabotaged the Supreme Court, perhaps irreparably.

Since the days of Pharoah Khufu, the one who built the Great Pyramid of Giza, and even before him, almost everyone who has held power and ruled over any society has wanted more power. There are two principal reasons for this hunger. One, apparently, is the pleasure that holding power over other people gives to those who crave this commodity. The second, and perhaps the more relevant in our case, is that the eternal demand for additional power constitutes a declaration by the ruler that what he has now is not enough. Insufficient power to govern is the universal excuse offered by leaders, in every time and place, for all the failures, defeats and calamities that they have brought down on their nation.

The truth, of course, is totally different. Since the Six-Day War, not one Israeli prime minister has been precluded by legal constraints or lack of power from taking significant steps in any of the country’s fundamental arenas – defense, economics and diplomacy. Thus Menachem Begin was able to withdraw from Sinai and sign a peace treaty with Egypt, while Ariel Sharon was able to carry out the misguided and short-sighted withdrawal from the Gaza Strip only while employing force to dismantle the settlements. And that same Begin, in conjunction with his defense minister, succeeded in launching a pointless premeditated war with little domestic political resistance.

With a wave of a hand, Israeli governments have been able to annex East Jerusalem, an area that contains hundreds of thousands of Arab residents, open the Western Wall tunnel and build the Har Homa neighborhood. Prime ministers have initiated wars both great and small, comprehensive financial and economic reforms, bombardments, espionage and international sabotage, successful moves and failures. They have also appointed chiefs of staff, police commissioners, Bank of Israel governors and the like. All these decisions were hatched in the brains of Israeli prime ministers and implemented with no visible impediment.

The only prime minister during this long period who was prevented from carrying out the decisive diplomatic-security move to which he aspired was Yitzhak Rabin. But what derailed Rabin was not lack of power or a flaw in the system of government, but a bullet from a pistol. Even the feeble brain of that despicable murderer was able to grasp that there is nothing within the system of government that can stop a prime minister.

If anything can be learned from human history, it is that there is an inverse relationship between a country’s progress, well-being and quality of life and the amount of power and authority in the hands of its leader. The constant improvement over the last 300 years in quality of life, individual freedom and personal security all go hand in hand with increasingly stringent limitations on the power of the leader or ruling clique. The 20th century provides too many examples of societies led by a strongman with sweeping governmental powers whose reign brought only damage, destruction and tragedy down upon his nation and humanity as a whole.

The most convincing arrow in the quiver of the knights of changing Israel’s system of government is the American model. If concentrating power in the hands of one man, the president of the United States, is good for America, then it is most certainly good for Israel. To that we must respond, first, that the president of America, which is a union of 50 states that are each ruled by a governor and two legislative houses, has less authority in very important respects than does Israel’s prime minister. But such a comparison is baseless for many reasons. The merest hint of a basis for comparison could perhaps be created if, for instance, a Basic Law were passed in Israel banning any type of prayer in any school or kindergarten subsidized by the state budget.

The real demon, the one whose breath on our necks keeps getting hotter and hotter as the years pass, is the demon of occupation.



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